As I write this sentence there are 15 days, 10 hours, and 33 minutes until graduation. Not that anyone is counting. Yesterday one of the first-year bloggers wrote about the experiences that she’s had over her first year and today I’ll reflect on my last four years at Juniata.
When I was gearing up to graduate from high school I was nostalgic, scared to leave the place that I had called home for four years, unsure of what was ahead of me. That same nostalgic feeling is absent now. I know what I am doing with my future, at least the next six years of it and I feel academically and socially prepared for the world. Juniata did a good job.
Of course, I’ll miss the quad and seeing the volleyball players frolic in the sun on their portable court. I’ll long for the lazy days where my friends and I would hammock in the trees outside of Founders, talking, and laughing, and dreaming about the future.
I’ll miss my classes and the professors that taught them. I began to enjoy learning for learning’s sake because the professors here don’t just teach you the material, they challenge you to think about what you’re learning and understand not only how it applies to your field of study, but also about how it might help you to better understand the rest of the world. That’s the joy of a liberal arts education, it helps you develop a larger world view that allows you to better understand your place in it and how you can make it a better place.
I’ve received some of the best grades of my life that have led me to four semesters on the dean’s list. And I’ve received some of the worst grades of my life that have given me the worst GPAs I’ve ever had. One of the reasons I feel so prepared for graduate school and the rest of life is that Juniata and the courses I have taken here have taught me how to fail, and how to do it with grace. If I can offer one piece of advice to take with you into your first year it is: learn how to learn from your mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get an A on your first test in biology, or if College Writing Seminar (CWS) has revealed to you that you might not be the author of the next great American novel. That doesn’t mean you’re going to fail in biology or that you’ll never be a good writer. Take the advice that is given to you and follow through on it. Over time you’ll see that your bio grade will go up and your essays will begin to receive glowing insightful comments from your CWS professor.
You are all coming to Juniata next year for a myriad of reasons, but you all have one thing in common: a glowing work ethic and perseverance in the face of adversity. There are too many memories, both good and bad, to share with you in one blog post. That’s OK, because you’re going to be making plenty of amazing memories on your own.
Spring is often seen as a season of new beginnings. The dead limbs of the trees burst back to life and the dandelions become prolific. It’s a seson of sunshine and happiness after the dark and cold and dreary days of Winter. For some, however, it can be a season of melancholy. I am of course talking about the Seniors who will be graduating in thirteen days. Yes, graduation is supposed to be a happy affair, a celebration of achievement over the past four years and all the achievement that the future holds for the graduating class. It is also a bittersweet affair because while the graduating class is going off to change the world, their graduation marks the end of a very remarkable era.
I am a Junior here at Juniata and with each passing day I become more and more preoccupied with my own impending graduation. There are so many things that I need to do in the next year to be even remotely ready to graduate. I need to take the GRE so I can apply to Graduate schools, I need to apply to Graduate schools, write a thesis on the research that I have done here at Juniata, and try to have as much fun in the next year as I possibly can.
I am not a fan of clichés, especially in writing, but I do believe that college is one of the best times of your life. I didn’t come to terms with this realization until the beginning of last semester. I was not having any fun. Now that’s not to say I stayed in my room and did homework all the time; I did manage to get out periodically, but I never did anything that was outside my comfort zone, nothing that challenged me to grow as a person. So, I decided to change that. The one thing that I do not want to do is walk across the front steps of Halbritter a year from now and wish I had done more during my undergraduate years.
I was first exposed to lacrosse as a freshman in high school when I was applying to Fountain Valley School of Colorado. I knew nothing about the sport, but from the moment I saw the few pictures of what looked to be combination football-hockey players striding through the trees of Fountain Valley’s Victory Road, I knew I wanted to play. These hopes were soon dashed by an aside comment from one of my Track and Field teammates who, when I told him that I wanted to play lacrosse because it looked fun, said, “Dude you’re so tiny those guys would kill you.” And that was the end of that.
At the beginning of this spring semester, Juniata Women’s Lacrosse made their NCAA D3 debut. I can’t say that I was all that excited about watching the sport because I didn’t understand the rules (and even after watching two games I still don’t understand what half the fouls were called for) and my initial infatuation with the sport had faded. But I was excited to watch my friends play a sport they loved and had practiced hard to do well in.
The day of the first lacrosse game was cloudy but uncharacteristically warm for mid-March in central Pennsylvania. The stands were not as full as they could be for the inaugural game of our lacrosse program, but those of us who were there were all there to support our friends and family and we were excited!
To be honest I’m not sure how many of us thought we were going to win that first game. Of course, we were all hoping and praying that our team would win but it was their first game and we assumed the girls they would be playing would be hardened Lax athletes. But from the moment Kat scored the first goal, I knew it was going to be a good game. The moment the crowd saw the ball hit the back of the net, it exploded to its feet cheering and screaming in the elation of an early success. Then Britt scored, then Natalie then Kat again and Britt again and before I knew it the game was over and we had managed to win by a decent margin and we had made it into the double digits.
Before this year I never attended Juniata sporting events. I just never found the time to. But the energy of that first lacrosse game, the support that the crowd gave to the team was infectious and next year, when I will be a Senior you will hopefully find me at every single home game, supporting my team.
Hands down, today was the best day I have ever had at Juniata. To start, the weather was beautiful, especially compared to the nasty conglomeration of precipitation the meteorologists like to call “winter mix.” The sky was clear and the wind that had plagued us all week had diminished to a light, almost refreshing breeze. All of this provided a lovely backdrop to the amazing event of Springfest. Every spring, our Juniata Activity Board, more commonly referred to as JAB, puts on a day-long event to celebrate the coming of spring and the sun and the warm weather that comes along with it.
This year Springfest was Coachella themed, as the JAB member who planned the event told me. They brought in four performers from across the northeast, including Lee Dewyze the winner of season nine of American Idol, and an amazing acapella group out of Canada call Eh440 (check them out they were AMAZING). The event ran from noon to seven in the evening and every hour of the event was packed with bouncy castles, food trucks, three encore performances from the Downbeat Percussion group, and a Ferris Wheel.
For me, it wasn’t the terrifying awesomeness of a Ferris Wheel (what? I’m afraid of heights) or the red chili chicken burrito served from a food truck that mad the day so memorable. I think I can take the liberty to say that for most, Springfest is the first day in a long time that they can leave their rooms and homework, and bask in the warmth of a sun that is too often hidden during the winter months. It’s a time to let loose a little before the final projects and tests start flooding in, robbing us of any time that we might otherwise have spent on the quad, lazily hammocking.
Even though I still have several homework assignments ahead of me tonight that I should have worked on today, I don’t regret spending my entire day outside. Sure, I’ll be a little more tired this week, but it’s also only three days long for me (thank god for Easter weekend and not having classes on Thursdays). My skin will also be red as a beet and burning up due to sunburn, but being uncomfortable for a few days will be well worth the day of music and food and fun that I just had.
Your Resident Assistant is as important to your freshmen year as the friends you make during those first few weeks on campus. The RA is not just big brother listening at the door for shenanigans, they are also a friend and mentor. I have been an RA for the past two years and I can honestly say that if I had to go back and do it all again, I would still choose to be an RA. I have gained an overabundance of leadership experience and I have also gotten to meet and build relationships with some pretty amazing people.
Among those great people are the Resident Director Brett Greene, Residential Life Coordinators Kevin Turner and Jason Francey, our Director Tasia White and Penny Hooper-Conway. First, Penny is a saint. She is our Associate Director of Reslife and she is the glue that holds the office together. She has been there the longest and her experience shows (and is much appreciated) during times of high stress, like Room Draw. Tasia, the Director of Reslife is new to her position but not new to Juniata. I spoke with her last semester when she was applying for the job and her passion for Reslife and her love for Juniata are the main reasons that I recommended her for the position (though as a lowly RA my input probably had little to do with her hiring).
As freshmen, the RLC you’ll encounter most Is Kevin Turner. As the Senior RA of Sherwood Hall, it has been my pleasure to work alongside Kevin this past year to develop the freshmen community in that building and across all our first-year buildings. Next year he’ll be working with Senior RAs Becca and Ellie, in Sunderland and Sherwood respectively, to continue to grow the communities in those buildings and improve upon the programming that we offer.
The most exciting thing about next year is the staff. We have biochemists and zoologists, an expert bowler (with his own perfectly white bowling shoes) and a lacrosse player, a member of the Juniata Concert Choir and a kid who likes to ride bikes a little too much (though I can’t talk because I run a lot so…). We have a diverse staff and we all have very diverse interests and personalities. What we do have in common is a love for Juniata and the drive to make others feel as welcome here as our RA’s made us feel when we were freshmen.